Imagine a swimming pool at your local recreational center.

Usually, the pool is divided into two areas. In the swimming lane portion, there’s one person swimming from one end to the opposite end of the pool. The other side of the swimming pool is usually reserved for open swimming, which means mayhem.

If you are determined to start at one side of the pool and reach the other in this free-range, open-swim area, you may achieve your goal. However, you most certainly will cross paths with other local patrons, swim through some waves and maybe get hit in the face with a Frisbee or Nerf ball.

This is the imagery that comes to mind when analyzing the performance of a marketing campaign.

The chaos of raw data in front of marketers today is like an open-swim area. Life would be much simpler if we could put each aspect of the campaign in its own swimming lane. However, as experienced advertisers, we know this is simply not how a campaign ecosystem functions.

Before completing the conversion of swimming to the other side of the pool, a prospect might swim through the wave of a print ad, be splashed by a dozen banners, take a flipper in the kidney from a native article and get whacked on the head by a social beach ball while on that conversion path.

Depending on how we establish conversion tracking, with the swimming lane approach to analytics, we would have shown more than three conversions stretches in the marketing reporting—one for the banners, one for the native article and another for the social post—which is not an effective means of measuring success.

As marketers, we need to shift our thinking away from swimming lane-marketing analytics and embrace the mindset of multi-touch attribution modeling across an advertisers' entire media campaign.

However, this is easier said than done. With the current climate of siloed analytic data, along with various tools attempting to solve this tangled swimming pool equation, there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer.

The life preserver that saves us from drowning in data is to evaluate our tactics individually to weed out any data defects. But more importantly, with a firmly established key performance indicator (KPI), we can analyze how the whole campaign moved the needle on that KPI, whether through sales, web traffic, form sign-ups and more.

Once this reporting is established and understood, then we can pull apart the different obstacles to test and analyze the impact they had on the swimmer’s journey to the far side of the pool.